Browne announced his impending retirement and intention not stand in the 2010 general election.
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
While Defence Secretary, Browne was one of three Labour cabinet ministers to vote against party whips when voting on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (Welsh secretary Paul Murphy and transport secretary Ruth Kelly, both Roman Catholic ministers, also rebelled). The decision followed demands made by Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor for MPs to be given a free vote on the Bill.
In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Des Browne voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 12 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, in keeping with scientific and medical consensus, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.